Thursday, February 2, 2012

Before We Watched Them - Watchmen Prequels

Before We Watched Them - Watchmen Prequels

I wouldn't be a self respecting comic book nerd if I didn't comment on this within 24 hours of the breaking news of it. But it seems that DC just can't keep from beating a dead horse. You see, they're getting the Watchmen team and getting the band back together for BEFORE WATCHMEN
This summer, DC Entertainment will publish all-new stories expanding on the acclaimed WATCHMEN universe. As highly anticipated as they are controversial, the seven inter-connected prequel mini-series will build on the foundation of the original WATCHMEN, the bestselling graphic novel of all time. BEFORE WATCHMEN will be the collective banner for all seven titles, from DC Comics.

“It’s our responsibility as publishers to find new ways to keep all of our characters relevant,” said DC Entertainment Co-Publishers Dan DiDio and Jim Lee. “After twenty five years, the Watchmen are classic characters whose time has come for new stories to be told. We sought out the best writers and artists in the industry to build on the complex mythology of the original.”

Stepping up to the challenge is a group of the comic book industry’s most iconoclastic writers and artists – including Brian Azzarello (100 BULLETS), Lee Bermejo (JOKER), Amanda Conner (POWER GIRL), Darwyn Cooke (JUSTICE LEAGUE: NEW FRONTIER), John Higgins (WATCHMEN), Adam Hughes (CATWOMAN), J.G. Jones (FINAL CRISIS), Andy Kubert (FLASHPOINT), Joe Kubert (SGT. ROCK), Jae Lee (BATMAN: JEKYLL AND HYDE), J. Michael Straczynski (SUPERMAN: EARTH ONE) and Len Wein (SWAMP THING).


RORSCHACH (4 issues) – Writer: Brian Azzarello. Artist: Lee Bermejo
MINUTEMEN (6 issues) – Writer/Artist: Darwyn Cooke
COMEDIAN (6 issues) – Writer: Brian Azzarello. Artist: J.G. Jones
DR. MANHATTAN (4 issues) – Writer: J. Michael Straczynski. Artist: Adam Hughes
NITE OWL (4 issues) – Writer: J. Michael Straczynski. Artists: Andy and Joe Kubert
OZYMANDIAS (6 issues) – Writer: Len Wein. Artist: Jae Lee
SILK SPECTRE (4 issues) – Writer: Darwyn Cooke. Artist: Amanda Conner

Each week, a new issue will be released, and will feature a two-page back-up story called CURSE OF THE CRIMSON CORSAIR, written by original series editor Len Wein and with art by original series colorist John Higgins. There will also be a single issue, BEFORE WATCHMEN: EPILOGUE, featuring the work of various writers and artists, and a CRIMSON CORSAIR story by Wein and Higgins.

“The original series of WATCHMEN is the complete story that Alan Moore and I wanted to tell. However, I appreciate DC’s reasons for this initiative and the wish of the artists and writers involved to pay tribute to our work. May these new additions have the success they desire,” said Dave Gibbons, WATCHMEN co-creator and original series artist.

“Comic books are perhaps the largest and longest running form of collaborative fiction,” said DiDio and Lee. “Collaborative storytelling is what keeps these fictional universes current and relevant.”
I'm not even going to start with the obvious question of "WHY?" in this, let's just jump over to the meat of it and talk about how there's a lot of talent wrapped up in this summer thing that no one except the DC executives ever asked for.

They got Azzarello on all the correct characters and I can see him doing a solid job on it. I sort of hate myself for wanting to read that Darwyn Cooke book as well because let's face it, I love Cooke's work. Then you have Amanda Conner on Silk Spectre? But then I realize that they put JMS on a book and any optimism I had is shattered yet again and I'm just assuming that it's going to be laughably bad and laughably late.

At the very least he's got nothing to worry about with sharing his toys during a cross-over event. Then again, JMS couldn't handle Superman, how the fuck does anyone think he's going to do anything but suck when he's asked to write for a guy experiencing every moment of time at once. I'm not sure who cried out for more poorly-conceived social commentary, but hey, you got it. But let's see what JMS has to say in this interview right here.

I sort of hate that there's so many top creators involved in this, because I really want to just flat out hate the idea on so many levels. And yet I still feel compelled to read an issue or two from those creators/writers/artist that are amazing. Darwyn Cooke on this? Yeah, I didn't expect that. JMS jumping on something like this.... and then jump directly off it 3 issues into a failed piece of work.

And of course, it's always good to know what the creator himself has to say about the matter. Though, if you know who Alan Moore is, you probably already know what he has to say about the matter. Mainly it's all grumpy old man yelling at the kids to get off his lawn. His lawn being Watchmen.

Mr. Moore, who has disassociated himself from DC Comics and the industry at large, called the new venture “completely shameless.”

Speaking by telephone from his home in Northampton, England, Mr. Moore said, “I tend to take this latest development as a kind of eager confirmation that they are still apparently dependent on ideas that I had 25 years ago.”

“As far as I know,” he said, “there weren’t that many prequels or sequels to ‘Moby-Dick.’ ”

Now I'm pretty sure comic fans are behind Moore on this one, but then there's those who think that Moore should shut up. And not because he just compared Watchmen to Moby Dick, but because in this case all he needs to do is shut up and let everyone else do the screaming for him.

I generally dislike when people claim that DC or comics are out of ideas as it comes off as really being smug. but he's pretty much objectively right in all this. Was there anyone who really wanted this? I don't even mean it will suck flat out, but why make it to begin with? I can't imagine what this will give us that I would even remotely care about.

Maybe if this was still 2009 and there was a movie on the horizon, this would be a good idea. I'd probably be more receptive to the idea. Rope in some new readers in with some fleshed out background on the characters, why not. But what are the odds that a prequel to a 25-year-old story is really going to bring in new readers?

Not to mention that Watchmen was already full of flashbacks to the characters' earlier days and filled in all the significant events of their lives. I don't see what prequels would accomplish. You know, aside from making money.

And even if Alan Moore gets up and yells at DC comics to get off his lawn, isn't Moore going to just go back inside and finish writing his commercially successful Dracula/Jules Verne/Robert Louis Stevenson/Arthur Conan Doyle/James Bond/Tijuana bible mash-up fanfiction? So you can say that he has no reason to complain about others using his work.

You sort of lose that ability when you yourself use characters such as Ishmael and Broad Arrow Jack, specifically from the example book you say has been respected enough to remain untouched by later authors. It is sort of difficult to say words against this when you built your career taking other people's creations and adding sex and violence to the subject matter.

Though that argument of "Well, Alan Moore does the same thing with other people's characters!" isn't really being fair to him. He generally offers radical reinterpretations of familiar characters, or incorporates characters in the form of new scenarios. None of his works are meant to be taken as Dracula II or Before Mr. hyde. So I give that point to that one group.. yeah. And there really is a distinction between creating a prequel in another creator's sandbox and incorporating and reinventing existing characters in new concepts of your own devising requirements come out.

The problem also is that the characters in Watchmen aren't very interesting as characters outside of the thematic context that they're presented in, as their backgrounds have already been adequately fleshed out in the original work, and their original use was almost entirely as tools to push ideologies on others. I just can't imagine that there is anything really interesting left to say with these characters aside from putting them in cool plots and bitchin' action scenes. Oh wait, can't forget the revealing clothing.

Everything that you needed to know about Rorschach was portrayed in the original book. Are we going to get an origin story about his cold beans habit? Oh god.. we are, aren't we? Well then, I guess I can't wait to read the story of how the Comedian knocked up the Vietnamese woman who he would later gun down......

...Oh...Oh God this is going to be in the story isn't it?

Maybe I shouldn't be surprised by this. Or maybe the surprise should come in the form that it took so long for this to happen. DC owns the property, which is one of the most successful in comic book history. Why wouldn't they want to try to capitalize on that? Creative control and proper use? pffft! All of the creative teams seem pretty solid except JMS. Because again, I have no interest in Doctor Manhattan walking around the country spouting Tea Party bullshit and then telling Rorschach that he doesn't fight enough street level crimes. But other than that, I guess it really is amazing that DC took this long to figure out that they can cash in crazy beating that dead horse some more.

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